Activities for Kids’ Online Communities - dummies

Activities for Kids’ Online Communities

By Deborah Ng

Most online communities for kids are gaming communities, with dozens of games for each child to choose among. Club Penguin, for example, a popular online kids’ community owned by Disney, features a variety of areas boasting dozens of games. Kids can become ninjas and earn black belts by playing virtual card games. They can even get a job and work behind a virtual soda counter or in a pet shop.

Though they do encounter other kids and each kid has a customized penguin avatar, the conversation is limited to a series of prephrased comments unless chat is enabled. Though kids can also create content and share in other ways, most of them are there for the games.

Games are perfect for kids, in that they stimulate and educate. Communities like Club Penguin are good starter communities that help kids learn online social skills.

It’s not enough to throw up random games, though. Communities have to have a theme and a purpose, and games should fall in line with those themes. Also, games and activities should have some sort of result, such as a badge earned at the end of each level.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when creating activities for kids:

  • Have a reward system. Kids love prizes, even if they’re virtual. At Club Penguin, for example, kids receive coins for every game or challenge they complete. They can exchange these coins for virtual pets (called piffles) or items to decorate their avatar penguins or igloos, which can also be purchased with coins. Kids can also donate coins to charity.

  • Educate and entertain. Having fun isn’t the only goal of a kids’ community. Activities should teach life lessons as well. Perhaps kids can work with other members on completing a task that teaches teamwork or play word-search games to help with spelling.

  • Mimic life. Games should mimic reality. Though kids may have avatars representing animals or mythical creatures, the practices and lessons in the various games should have some basis in reality. Kids enjoy role-playing, and if they pretend to be firemen, police officers, doctors, astronauts, teachers, or singers, their play may fuel career aspirations.

  • Be careful of being too violent. Be mindful of age groups. Shooting, crashing cars, punching or hitting, and other violent acts have no place in a kids’ community. Games and activities should be kid- and family-friendly and should send a positive message.